Anger and concern have been stirred in the Labor Party as the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon invited two religious parties for talks on Unity government on Tuesday.

For some time, the Labor party thought itself the one and only candidate for a change in the ruling coalition. However, Sharon’s talks with Shas and the United Torah Judaism parties showed a different scenario.

Labor Party Leader Shimon Peres said, talks with Likud might be wrapped up soon and a unity agreement could be signed after solving few unresolved issues.

Apparently Sharon is concerned over his government as the current rebellion inside the Likud over the Disengagement plan and his talks with the Labor coupled with a tie in the Knesset no-confidence vote, which had him to open another channel to be able to sustain a government that might be able to implement his Disengagement Plan.

Another obstacle facing Sharon’s survival endeavors is his major coalition partner Shinui.

Yousef Lapid, Justice Minister from Shinui, reiterated his party’s pledge to bolt any government which incorporates Shinui’s arch-rival, Shas.

The ultra-Orthodox parties have indicated that they would boycott any government which included secular centrist Shinui.

Apparently Sharon has to drop one of them as he can not have them both. Observers believe Shinui will stay as they have 15 where as the two religious parties together calculate 16 members of Knesset only. Therefore observers think Sharon took this step of talking to these religious parties to minize manipulations by the Labor party by getting them out of the exclusivity situation, and to pressure the rebellious Likud members.

Sharon to Meet Two Religious Parties for Unity Talks

Israeli sources reported that the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has invited, on Monday, the Ultra-Orthodox Shass and United Torah Judaism parties for talks on joining a possible unity government.

Opposition within the Likud against the Labor joining the government has disturbed Sharon’s bid to form a new coalition.

Sharon had actually met the Labor chief, Shimon Peres on Monday and discussed the conditions on which the Labor would join the Likud in forming a unity government.

This step was criticized by both, Likud and Labor members, but more in the Likud side.

With Sharon meeting the religious parties for unity, his major coalition partner, Justice Minister, Yousef Lapid of the secular Shinui party, expressed his dis-satisfaction with the step by saying it is an unrealistic one.

According to Lapid, if Labor chose the ultra-Orthodox parties over Shinui in a future coalition, Labor’s voters would interpret this as a betrayal, and the party would suffer a ‘crash’ at the polls in the next elections.

On the other hand, Israel radio reported that Sharon is to meet Thursday with MK Eli Yishai, leader of the Sephardi Shas. He will also meet representatives of the Ashkenazi United Torah Judaism.

One of the Likud internal position, deputy cabinet minister Michael Ratzon said he strongly oppose a Likud-Labor-Shinui coalition calling it a government of the left, not of the unity.

Sharon had earlier said that if no unity government is formed, he would resort to early elections.

It is likely that this warning would add pressure on the Likud and National Religious Party rebels who oppose the Labor joining the government as none of them are interested in early elections.

‘Members of the coalition cannot fail to support’ the government. ‘It’s very ‘moving’ to watch some of the people either going out or others not taking part in the votes. But this is something that, of course, cannot continue.’ Sharon said.

He added, ‘If it does continue, this places me in a position where I must form a new coalition,’ Sharon declared. In a nod to the unity government, the prime minister said he could either ‘broaden the coalition, not because I want to but for lack of an alternative, or… I will have to go to [early] elections.’

On his side, following the meeting, Peres told members of his own faction that he expected to begin formal negotiations with Sharon on forming a unity government to push ahead on a Gaza withdrawal.